Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Considerations Against Dogmatizing, III

Joseph Glanvill (1636-1680), Scepsis Scientifica: or, Confest Ignorance, the Way to Science; in an Essay of the Vanity of Dogmatizing and Confident Opinion, ed. John Owen (London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co, 1885), pp. 195-200 (from Chap. XXVII):
(3.) Dogmatizing is the great disturber both of our selves and the world without us: for while we wed an opinion, we resolvedly engage against every one that opposeth it. Thus every man, being in some of his opinionative apprehensions singular, must be at variance with all men. Now every opposition of our espous'd opinions furrows the sea within us, and discomposeth the minds serenity. And what happiness is there in a storm of passions? On this account the Skepticks affected an indifferent aequipondious neutrality as the only means to their Ataraxia, and freedom from passionate disturbances. Nor were they altogether mistaken in the way, to their design'd felicity, but came short on't, by going beyond it: for if there be a repose naturally attainable this side the Stars, there is no way we can more hopefully seek it in. We can never be at rest, while our quiet can be taken from us by every thwarting our opinions: nor is that content an happiness, which every one can rob us of. There is no felicity, but in a fixed stability. Nor can genuine constancy be built upon rowling foundations. 'Tis true staidness of mind, to look with an equal regard on all things; and this unmoved apathy in opinionative uncertainties, is a warrantable piece of Stoicism. Besides, this immodest obstinacy in opinions, hath made the world a Babel; and given birth to disorders, like those of the Chaos. The primitive fight of Elements doth fitly embleme that of Opinions, and those proverbial contrarieties may be reconcil'd, as soon as peremptory contenders. That hence grow Schisms, Heresies, and anomalies beyond Arithmetick, I could wish were more difficult to be proved. 'Twere happy for a distemper'd Church, if evidence were not so near us. 'Tis zeal for opinions that hath filled our Hemisphear with smoke and darkness, and by a dear experience we know the fury of those flames it hath kindled. 'Tis lamentable that homo homini Daemon, should be a Proverb among the Professors of the Cross; and yet I fear it is as verifiable among them, as of those without the pale of visible Christianity. I doubt we have lost S. John's sign of regeneration: By this we know that we are past from death to life, that we love one another, is I fear, to few a sign of their spiritual resurrection. If our Returning Lord, shall scarce find faith on earth, where will he look for Charity? It is a stranger this side the Region of love, and blessedness; bitter zeal for opinions hath consum'd it. Mutual agreement and indearments was the badge of Primitive Believers, but we may be known by the contrary criterion. The union of a Sect within it self, is a pitiful charity: it's no concord of Christians, but a conspiracy against Christ; and they that love one another, for their opinionative concurrencies, love for their own sakes, not their Lords: not because they have his image, but because they bear one anothers. What a stir is there for Mint, Anise, and Cummin controversies, while the great practical fundamentals are unstudyed, unobserved? What eagerness in the prosecution of disciplinarian uncertainties, when the love of God and our neighbour, those Evangelical unquestionables, are neglected? 'Tis this hath consum'd the nutriment of the great and more necessary Verities, and bred differences that are past any accommodation, but that of the last dayes decisions. The sight of that day will resolve us, and make us asham'd of our petty quarrels.

Thus Opinions have rent the world asunder, and divided it almost into indivisibles. Had Heraclitus liv'd now, he had wept himself into marble, and Democritus would have broke his spleen. Who can speak of such fooleries without a Satyr, to see aged Infants so quarrel at putpin, and the doating world grown child again? How fond are men of a bundle of opinions, which are no better than a bagge of Cherry-stones? How do they scramble for their Nuts, and Apples, and how zealous for their petty Victories? Methinks those grave contenders about opinionative trifles, look like aged Socrates upon his boyes Hobby-horse, or like something more ludicrous: since they make things their seria, which are scarce tolerable in their sportful intervals.
rowling: rolling, swaying
The primitive fight of Elements: Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.5-20
anomalies beyond Arithmetick: anomalies beyond number
homo homini Daemon: man is to man a devil, also in Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, Part. I, Sec. 2, Mem. 3, Subs. 10, a variant of Plautus, Asinaria 495 (lupus est homo homini = man is to man a wolf)
S. John's sign of regeneration: 1 John 3:14
putpin: pushpin, "A children's game in which each player pushes or propels a pin with the object of crossing that of another player" (Oxford English Dictionary)

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